The American town of Aspen will
have the honour of hosting the 2016/2017 FIS Ski World Cup Finals to conclude
the historical 50th World Cup Season.
back to the us
Aspen, Colorado – the name says it all. A former silver mining community so-called after the trees dominating its slopes, Aspen is known as the place where the rich and famous – from celebrities to business executives – gather for ski holidays and summer retreats. No wonder that Aspen today ranks atop the list for the highest real estate prices in all of the USA. On 15-19th March 2017, the town of Aspen will have the honour of welcoming the FIS Ski World Cup Finals back to Colorado to conclude the historical 50th World Cup season. It will be the first time since 1997 that the season culminates overseas. In fact, since the introduction of the World Cup Finals in 1993, only Vail, another Colorado resort, has hosted the Finals outside of Europe, in 1994 and 1997.
a global tour
As a whole, the 2016/2017 World Cup season is characterised by a large number of races staged overseas; a total of 16 competitions are taking place in the US. Besides Aspen in the Rockies, the ladies’ tour returned to the US East Coast, racing at Killington Resort, Vermont, in November. Just before the Finals, the ladies will also stop at Squaw Valley, in Olympic Valley, California, on their way back from the 2018 Olympic test events in PyeongChang, Korea. As has become a tradition, the men’s schedule contains the Birds of Prey racing week at Beaver Creek in December.
up for grabs: 15 crystal globes and usd 1.1 million in prize money
Since the FIS World Cup Finals programme features a whopping nine competitions, there is a full week of elite ski racing in store at Aspen Mountain. After the downhill training runs on Monday and Tuesday, 13-14th March, the season’s ultimate races are scheduled daily from Wednesday onwards. Both the ladies and men will compete in two technical and two speed decisions each, as well as in the Nations Team Event, which is a mixed gender team competition that will premiere on the Olympic winter programme at PyeongChang 2018. Only the best 25 ladies and men in the season standings qualify for the individual events, along with the reigning junior world champions. Approximately 150 of the world’s very best ski racers and some 250 support staff will be on site in mid-March. The World Cup Finals wrap up each season by handing out the coveted crystal globes for overall season and individual discipline titles for the ladies and men, as well as for the best national teams (ladies/men/overall). This means that 15 globes in total, or more than 50kg of highest quality crystal produced by Joska, a German glasswork situated in northern Bavaria, will be up for grabs. In terms of the prize money purse, the World Cup Finals 2017 will pay out a total of 1’080’000 Swiss francs, which equals USD 1.1 million! According to the FIS rules, the minimum prize money purse per World Cup competition amounts to 120’000 Swiss francs for the first time this season.
The Longines Ambassador of Elegance Mikaela Shiffrin, winner of the slalom competitions in Aspen in 2015.
Aspen’s history is closely connected with ski racing. The FIS competitions have remained a central event for many years since 1939 when the first sanctioned races took place. The Aspen Skiing Company was founded in 1946, and later that year, the first chair lift – then the world’s longest known as Lift-1 – opened to bring skiers to the top of Aspen Mountain. Initially, the founders including the Chicago industrialist Walter Paepcke hoped to create a quaint centre for holistic human advancement, but soon the town’s fortunes became closely intertwined with skiing and specifically with the Aspen Skiing Company, locally known as SkiCo. Already in 1950, only four years after its establishment, the Aspen Skiing Company served as the host of the FIS World Ski Championships, the first international skiing competition in the United States and the first non-European FIS World Ski Championships. Aspen then featured on the first official FIS World Cup calendar in 1968, following the approval of the new competition series at the International Ski Congress in Beirut in May 1967. Since March 1968, Aspen has hosted a total of 75 FIS World Cup events before this season’s Finals.
return of america’s downhill
While Aspen has been a regular station on the ladies’ World Cup tour for the past 15 years, the Finals will mark the return of the men’s World Cup to Aspen for the first time since 2001. The Ruthie’s Run slope used to host hotly contested men’s World Cup races for over sixty years. In 1981, the course on Ruthie’s Run was renamed America’s Downhill and the history of racing on this classic run is filled with many tales. On the moderate upper section, wind and waxing have often decided the winners already before the more technical parts commence as racers enter Aztec and Spring Pitch, considered by many as one of the most demanding downhill stretches in the world. For the ladies, too, the technical challenges and varied terrain on the giant slalom and slalom courses in Aspen make them some of the most challenging slopes on the tour. “We’ll have great, exciting races at Aspen. It has been a classic downhill during the spring tour in the past. It will be good to see the men race on that hill again. In Aspen we will experience something very exciting for the sport and very memorable in terms of the event programme they’re going to produce,” commented Atle Skaardal, the FIS Chief Race Director for the ladies’ World Cup, who himself finished 2nd in America’s Downhill both in 1991 and 1994. Conspicuously, American winners on Aspen snow have been few and far between. The last American male to win in Aspen is Bill Johnson, who triumphed in 1984. And before the young shooting star Mikaela Shiffrin claimed the honours in both of the back-to-back slaloms in November 2015, the last American female to win in Aspen was Tamara McKinney in 1981!
Longines Ambassador of Elegance Mikaela Shiffrin during the World Cup in Aspen in 2015.
Aspen is located at the foot of Aspen Mountain and is one
of three top notch ski areas in the Roaring Fork valley.
what’s new for the finals?
To underscore its role as a preeminent ski racing town, Aspen not only supports up-and-coming athletes and hosts multiple ski races every season, but has also invested heavily into bringing the season finale to America. Several on-hill improvements have been made, including a new timing building that is larger and in a more suitable location. The finish area has been reconfigured to accommodate all the disciplines on the competition schedule and a much larger event overall. The race courses will benefit from wider slopes, new safety netting and snowmaking improvements.
During the week, the centrally located Wagner Park downtown Aspen will become the hub of activity, including three concerts, public bib draws, a vendor village and much more. The tradition of a World Cup art competition and display will also continue for the Finals. In addition, there are plans to make the Wheeler Opera House part of the event and include showings of skiing related films. In short, the World Cup Finals will turn the entire town of Aspen into a huge celebration and festival of skiing! “Aspen is one of the world’s iconic ski resorts and a popular stop on the World Cup tour since its inception in 1968. The FIS Ski World Cup Finals is a major focus for Aspen Snowmass and our entire community. We’re proud to bring the world’s best ski racers to town in celebration of athletic achievement, and treat racing’s global fans to an amazing week on and off the slopes in Aspen, Colorado,” said John Rigney, Vice President, Aspen Skiing Company. “Aspen has been a remarkable partner in a very large scale project to bring the best ski racers in the world to the USA for an end of season festival of the sport,” noted US Ski and Snowboard Association President and CEO Tiger Shaw. “It’s an important part of our initiative to increase awareness of ski racing in America”.
aspen snowmass – worth a visit
There may be just one Aspen, Colorado, but the Aspen Skiing Company today operates what is called Aspen Snowmass that includes a total of four ski areas. Aspen itself, located at the foot of Aspen Mountain (known locally as Ajax), is one of three top notch ski areas in the Roaring Fork Valley. The other two are known as Aspen Highlands and Buttermilk while the fourth area belonging to the consortium – Snowmass – is just 16 km to the west. In terms of skiable surface, Snowmass is the largest of the four. However, each resort offers a multitude of slopes and lifts and variable terrain from beginner skiers to experts and off-piste aficionados. Aspen is not just a ski resort but also features a number of entertainment and other leisure time options. It is home to cultural institutions such as the Aspen Institute and the Aspen Music Festival and also offers a fantastic array of culinary delights, for all sizes of wallets. What better time to plan a visit than the week of 13-19th March 2017!
Aspen’s history is closely connected with ski racing. The FIS competitions have remained a central event for many years since 1939 when the first sanctioned races took place.